System Builder Marathon, March 2012: $2600 Performance PC

System Builder Marathon, March 2012: The Articles

Here are links to each of the five articles in this quarter’s System Builder Marathon (we’ll update them as each story is published). And remember, these systems are all being given away at the end of the marathon, including the Bonus Customer Choice PC, which we picked out using the highest-rated components in Newegg's feedback system.

To enter the giveaway, please fill out this SurveyGizmo form, and be sure to read the complete rules before entering!

Day 1: The $650 Gaming PC
Day 2: The $1250 Enthusiast PC
Day 3: The $2600 Performance PC
Day 4: Performance And Value, Dissected
Day 5: Bonus Newegg Customer Choice PC


Regardless of budget, maximizing performance per dollar is the first priority of every System Builder Marathon machine. Games account for 30% of our evaluation, and the most cost-effective way to increase our overall performance score is to sink more of our money into graphics. But even throwing cash at higher frame rates hits a point of diminishing returns, since CPU bottlenecks always seem to rear their ugly heads more quickly when you go heavy on GPU muscle.

Recent changes to our benchmark suite make CPU bottlenecks an even bigger issue. Thankfully, Intel’s six-core Sandy Bridge-E architecture is available in a trim that doesn't require spending $1000 on a processor. The Core i7-3930K even gives us an unlocked multiplier with which to work. A moderately high price tag prevents us from really going all-out with a high-end CrossFire or SLI graphics configuration, but AMD gives us hope for greater single-GPU performance with its Radeon HD 7970.

While we didn’t have enough money left over for a second flagship graphics card, a $200 budget boost still gave us a little more flexibility to focus on our top system’s second priority: perceived quality. Increasing the perception of quality involves simple tweaks, such as case design, as well as more focused efforts to bring down system noise. Keeping those factors in mind, we design today’s system to provide the best possible overall user experience.

$2600 Performance PC Components
ProcessorIntel Core i7-3930K: 3.2-3.8 GHz, 12 MB Cache $600
GraphicsMSI R7970-2PMD3GD5/OC: Radeon HD 7970 (Factory O/C) $590
MotherboardAsus P9X79 Pro: LGA 2011, Intel X79 Express $320
MemoryG.Skill F3-1600C9Q-16GAB: DDR3-1600 C9, 4 GB x 4 (16 GB) $90
System DriveMushkin MKNSSDCR240GB-DX: 240 GB, SATA 6Gb/s SSD $274
Storage DriveSeagate Barracuda Green ST1500DL003: 1.5 TB, 5900 RPM Hard Drive
OpticalPioneer BDR-206DBKS: 12x BD-R, 16x DVD±R $95
CaseAntec P280 Case, 2x Rosewill ROCF-11004 Fan, Okgear FC444PWM-12 Cable $162
PowerSeasonic Platinum-860: 860 W, ATX/EPS12V Full Modular, 80 PLUS Platinum $220
CPU CoolerZalman CNPS12X $90
 Total Cost

Aside from personal tastes in aesthetics, none of the components in this quarter's high-end build should be controversial. And while we fully expect a lively debate about some of the other parts we could have picked in the comments section, our primary concern is to see if this system works as well in practice as it looks on a build sheet.

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  • Steveymoo
    Thomas: Y U NO USE 2 GPU?

    But srsly, I don't get this set up... Why not scrap the expensive (and kinda pointless for gaming) 3930k, and spend the extra cash on a dual GPU set up?
  • LePhuronn
    SteveymooWhy not scrap the expensive (and kinda pointless for gaming) 3930k, and spend the extra cash on a dual GPU set up?

    Because, as clearly stated in the introduction, this isn't a gaming rig - only 30% of the system's overall score is gaming.